Breaking News: Osaki Case Wins a Retrial!

Kagoshima District Court granted a retrial for Ayako Haraguchi, who always maintained her innocence. She was convicted for a 1979 murder case, and served 10 years in prison. She filed her first request for a retrial in 1995. This was her 3rd plea for a retrial.

Previous post on the Osaki Case here.

From the Japan TimesContinue reading

Appeals Court Concurs: Brendan Dassey’s Confession Was Involuntary

Yesterday, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal magistrate judge’s ruling that Wisconsin inmate Brendan Dassey’s confession in the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach (featured in the Netflix series “Making a Murderer”) was involuntary. The state Justice Department had appealed and will likely seek a review by the 7th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court. The state also has the option of retrying Dassey within 90 days.

In an Associated Press article, Steven Drizin, an expert on false confessions, Co-founder of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern University, and one of Dassey’s attorneys said, Continue reading

Tyrone Noling Case in Ohio Supreme Court Today

Tuesday June 20th, Ohio Innocence Project attorney Brian Church Howe will be arguing in the Ohio Supreme Court on behalf of Tyrone Noling, an innocent death row inmate. Even though the witnesses against him have recanted and said they were pressured by the police to falsely implicate Tyrone, the state of Ohio wants to execute Tyrone WITHOUT giving him the DNA testing he deserves. DNA testing could prove his innocence. This is absolutely outrageous. Watch a powerful video about his case here:
https://vimeo.com/193942101

And watch Brian argue in the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday morning here:
http://www.sc.ohio.gov/videostream/flash.asp His is the last argument of the day.

Read former Attorney General Jim Petro‘s powerful editorial about the need for DNA testing in this case here: http://www.cincinnati.com/…/petro-dna-testing-vi…/408458001/

Weekend Quick Clicks…

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Weekend Quick Clicks…

Exoneration today in Michigan…

From an email from David Moran of the Michigan Innocence Clinic (with permission):

 

The Michigan Innocence Clinic is very pleased to announce the exoneration today of our client, Desmond Ricks, who served 25 years for a murder he did not commit because the Detroit Police Department (DPD) Crime Lab committed forensic fraud and then covered it up.

On March 3, 1992, Mr. Ricks rode with his friend, Gerry Bennett to a restaurant in Detroit where Bennett was to meet a man for a drug deal. Ricks stayed in the car in the parking lot while Bennett went inside. A few minutes later, Bennett emerged from the restaurant with another man, who then pulled a gun and shot Bennett twice, killing him. The man then noticed Ricks, and so Ricks jumped out of the car and fled as the man opened fire on him. In the process of running away, Ricks dropped his jacket.
The police found the jacket, with Ricks’ ID, in the parking lot. They then drove to the home where Ricks lived with his mother and arrested him. The police searched the house and found a .38 Rossi special in Ricks’ mother’s nightstand.
Two days later, a Detroit Police firearms examiner declared that the two bullets recovered from Gerry Bennett’s body matched bullets he had test-fired from Ricks’ mother’s gun. Ricks insisted that this match was not possible, so his lawyer got the court to appoint an independent firearms examiner, David Townshend, who confirmed the DPD’s result. So both Pauch and Townshend testified for the prosecution at trial. There was no evidence of any kind against Ricks other than the bullets which matched his mother’s gun.
In 2008, however, the DPD Crime Lab was shut down after the Michigan State Police found massive “irregularities” in the ballistics unit. After hearing of the scandal, Ricks wrote David Townshend, who drove to the prison to meet Ricks, where he revealed that he had been suspicious for nearly two decades of the “autopsy” bullets he had analyzed in 1992.
Townshend told Ricks that he now believed the bullets the DPD gave him were too “pristine” and intact to have been removed from Bennett’s body. Townshend concluded that the DPD had given him the test-fired bullets and passed them off as the bullets from the autopsy so that Townshend would declare a match between those bullets and his own test-fired bullets, thereby confirming the DPD’s result.
Long story short, we took the case in 2011, spent years looking for the original autopsy bullets, eventually found them, and then got a court order to have them analyzed by the Michigan State Police Crime Lab. That analysis was completed last week and shows that David Townshend was correct: the bullets from the autopsy were far too mangled to be matched to any particular gun, but one of the bullets did have a faint pattern of 5 lands and grooves, which affirmatively excluded it as having been fired from a .38 Rossi (which has 6 lands and grooves).
The conclusion, then, is that the DPD Crime Lab in 1992 fabricated a match of the autopsy bullets to Ricks’ mother’s gun and then switched the autopsy bullets with test-fired bullets so that the independent examiner (Townshend) would not discover the fraud. Upon receiving the Michigan State Police report last week, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office immediately stipulated to overturn Ricks’ conviction and to not oppose his release on bond. Today, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss all charges.
Mr. Ricks was 26 when he was convicted and is now 51. He has spent time the last few days with his two daughters (both nurses) and met his six grandchildren for the first time. He looks forward to getting a job and, as he said at a press conference, “becoming a taxpayer.”
Over six years, we had seven different attorneys and about 15 law students work on this case. Our former staff attorney Caitlin Plummer had the case the longest and did the lion’s share of the work to get this result. A special shout out goes to the incomparable Claudia Whitman, who heard about this case before we did and very forcefully convinced us to accept it. And we are extremely grateful to David Townshend, who came forward with the truth when he realized that he had been duped into confirming the DPD’s “match” and didn’t waver even when the prosecutor initially called his claim “outlandish” and a “conspiracy theory.”
Dave Moran
Michigan Innocence Clinic

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

Tedx talk on the psychological flaws that lead to wrongful convictions…

Watch Wrongful Conviction Blog editor Mark Godsey’s 18-minute Tedx talk on his new book Blind Injustice (Amazon #1 new release in its category) here.

Purchase book here….

 

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Innocence harder to prove than guilt…

Marissa Bluestone of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project discusses how proving innocence post-conviction is so much larger burden than a prosecutor proving guilt at trial.  True words never spoken.   Read or listen here

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

  • Learn about what The Exoneree Band is up to these days
  • The Ohio Innocence Project exonerees Rickey Jackson, Nancy Smith and Clarence Elkins on yesterday’s episode of The Doctors, talking about PTSD
  • Article spotlighted how bad interrogation techniques lead to false confessions
  • Innocence movement hero Jennifer Thompson speaks up about how new legislation in Alabama could hurt the innocent
  • Son speaks out about mom’s wrongful conviction

Mother’s Day

Here is a link to a Dateline NBC episode about OIP client Nancy Smith, who served 14 years in prison. She was a single mother of 4 when she was ripped away from her children and put behind bars for a crime she didn’t commit. But she endured, and always remained a mother, as mothers will do. A caring, loving mother, trying desperately to do everything she could help her children from prison. When the truth came to light and she was released, she spent her freedom watchingher grandchildren (all but 1 were born when she was in prison) while their parents worked. 

Mothers are sacred, and wrongful conviction touches even the sacred mother like Nancy Smith. Happy Mothers Day to you Nancy Smith.

And Happy Mother’s Day to all the wrongfully convicted moms who have been exonerated, or who are still in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. And Happy Mother’s Day to ALL mothers who miss their children today because they are behind bars.

Weekend Quick Clicks…

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

  • Podcast of recent exoneration in South Africa, with exoneree, lawyer, and journalist who broke the story.
  • Zaruhi Mejlumyan, a journalist who is creating the Armenian Innocence Project, wins award for her advocacy work surrounding wrongful convictions
  • Take the quiz…..How much do you know about America’s guilty plea problem?
  • Profile of Innocence Project Northwest in Seattle
  • Can a surgical procedure help minimize PTSD in exonerees?
  • More on plea bargaining as a national problem
  • Meet the innocent couple who found love after death row

URGENT: Northern California IP needs your help today….

Timely call to action at end of this post….MUST BE DONE TODAY

Tomorrow (Tuesday), Maurice Caldwell has his first hearing before the California Victim Compensation Board. The Board may be his only and best chance to receive compensation.  Although compensation is mandated by statute in the state of California, compensation is not automatic–it must be granted by the Board, which is comprised of political appointees.

The facts overwhelmingly show that Maurice is innocent.  Still, he must prove his innocence again in order to be compensated for the 20 years he spent wrongfully convicted.  Even though his conviction has been overturned, the actual perpetrator has confessed, the DA has dismissed the charges, and a federal court acknowledged there is evidence that a police officer fabricated the false evidence that led to the charges against Maurice, Maurice must still demonstrate that he “more likely than not” did not commit the crime.  Worse still, he must do so in an administrative hearing where he lacks subpoena power to bring witnesses to testify, the rules of evidence do not apply, and witnesses may only testify by skype if the Attorney General agrees.  In Maurice’s case, that means the real perpetrator who has confessed cannot be brought from prison – where he is now serving a life sentence for yet another murder – to testify in front of the Board.

As early as 1990, witnesses told law enforcement that Marritte Funches had shot and killed the victim.  In 2007, Funches confessed and provided details only someone familiar with the crime would know.  Funches has repeatedly sworn that Maurice was not present or involved in the crime.  Multiple witnesses have now identified Funches and another man, Henry Martin, as the actual shooters, and all have said that Maurice was not there.  Martin has said that he would talk if given immunity.  Three alibi witnesses have sworn that Maurice was inside an apartment with them when the shots were fired.

There was also false testimony by an incentivized witness.  The only witness who implicated Maurice was his next-door neighbor, Mary Cobbs.  Cobbs initially told police the shooters did not live in the neighborhood.  Police orchestrated a series of improper procedures that made clear Maurice was their suspect, and offered to move Cobbs and her children out of the drug-infested housing projects if she testified as a witness.  Only then did she change her story and identify Maurice, whom she admitted she knew because he lived next door.  Cobbs was rewarded with a new apartment in a safer area, $1000, a trip to Disneyland, and a job. She even received a key to the City of San Francisco.

Finally, the police officer who fabricated the evidence that led to Maurice’s wrongful conviction had a clear motive against Maurice.  A few months before the shooting, Maurice told the police officer that he was filing a complaint against him for excessive force in an unrelated incident.  The officer has admitted that he threatened to kill Maurice in response. That same officer then fabricated the evidence that caused the homicide inspectors to focus solely on Maurice as a suspect in the Acosta murder, and also orchestrated the improper identification procedures that led Cobbs to falsely identify Maurice.  At the time of these events, the officer knew he was under investigation for Caldwell’s complaint.  Although a supervisor recommended sustaining the complaint one month before the shooting, it was dismissed after Caldwell was convicted.

Even so, Maurice faces an uphill battle toward compensation and readies himself to try prove a negative – that he did not commit this crime.  Maurice spent 7,494 days fighting to prove he was wrongfully convicted and did so.  The United States Supreme Court, in Colorado v. Nelson, just reaffirmed that exonerees like Maurice are presumed innocent like every other citizen.  Everyone who does post-conviction work knows how hard it is to get back to that innocence after the State has pronounced you guilty.  But rather than compensate him for his wrongful conviction, the State of California requires he now prove a negative before it gives him even one penny for the two decades he spent behind bars for a conviction it has already recognized was wrong.

Want to help Maurice? There are three key things you can do:

  1. Write a letter of support to the Board on Maurice’s behalf.  Please see the attached information about Maurice’s case, the FAQ’s about the compensation process, and the sample letter below.  Please email a copy to NCIP Associate Director tfries@scu.edu.

 

  1. Join us at the hearing on Tuesday, May 9 at 9:30am in Sacramento, at the following address:

California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board

400 R Street,

Sacramento, CA, 95811

  1. Attend the full California Victim Compensation Board Meeting—the date and time are currently TBD, but we will keep you posted with more details as we receive them.

Weekend Quick Clicks…

Conviction Tossed in Another Chicago False Confession Case

Here’s a great email to receive this week—from David Owens, attorney for Patrick Prince…

Mates:
I’m a little late in reporting, but last Thursday, in an exceptionally courageous decision, a Cook County judge granted post-conviction relief to Exoneration Project client, Patrick Prince. After a evidentiary hearing, Judge Wilson found that we’d met the actual innocence standard and vacated Prince’s conviction. The opinion can be found here, and is attached. Still unsure whether the state will seek a retrial or dismiss the charges.
Mr. Prince has been imprisoned since 1991, when he was just 19. There was one—and only one–piece of evidence that tied him to the crime: a confession notorious Chicago Detective Kriston Kato coerced out of him after an evening of interrogation and abuse. Detective Kato has been accused of abusing more than 30 people (indeed, witnesses and not just defendants), nearly 1/3 of whom were never charged, acquitted, or had their convictions overturned.
An additional “Chicago style” wrinkle:  In Chicago, after a suspect agrees to give a statement, a “Felony Review” Assistant State’s Attorney comes to the police station to memorialize the confession, even if it’s 5 in the morning as it was in this case. Then, the felony review ASAs testify—almost identically from case to case—at suppression hearings that the defendant seemed fine, not abused, was treated well by the police, etc. It is completely bogus, and a part of the deep corruption here. These felony review ASAs must play ball with the detectives, or they don’t move on to the trial division, which is what leads to the homicide division and, of course, later being elected as a Cook County judge….
This is why I described the opinion as courageous.  In this case, the felony review ASA was a women named Dominica Stephenson.  Ms. Stephenson is a sitting judge in the same building as our judge. She was represented in the hearing by “Special State’s Attorneys” from Skadden. Truly remarkable. If that weren’t enough, Detective Kato is married to a different sitting judge in the building who parks next to Judge Wilson. So, in addition to the legal hurdles we had to overcome, we had to persuade our judge to ignore the political pressure of  26th and Cal. It is not lost on me that this opinion would have been impossible had he been a former ASA in Cook County.
A final note that makes this case pretty great: University of Chicago law students were involved at every step—from intake, to pleadings, and to putting on witnesses in our evidentiary hearing. In addition to the great news for our client, it was truly rewarding to see the students learn so much, and gain an appreciation for the importance of this work hands on.
Cheers,
David Owens
Earlier coverage of case here.